Brigham Young University, a private, non-profit research university in Provo, Utah, owned by the Church of the Latter-day Saints, received criticism after a Twitter user posted a picture of a student-run math club flyer for a “Women in Math” event for Tuesday evening.
The problem? The flyer does not feature any women speaking at the event.
…is this satire? pic.twitter.com/xtYTB3rE2F
— rat girl (@stephdriggs) February 21, 2018
Geared toward “all women who love math,” the BYU student-organized event encouraged students to “Come learn about research done in data science, topology, number theory, and dynamical systems.” Four male math professors hosted the event.
Many individuals favorited and retweeted the tweet and responded with questions aimed at why the event did not mention or feature women in the math department. In response to the criticism, the university’s math department posted this message on Facebook:
“Many of you have probably seen a poster circulating around the Internet from our Women in Math Organization! The poster featured the pictures of four of our department faculty. It was done with good intentions. It was not meant to demean women or be satirical. We value women in mathematics and their contributions, and work to promote opportunities for women to succeed in mathematics.”
Stephanie Driggs, the BYU student who originally posted the tweet, later attempted to quell criticism. She said that she attended the meeting and enjoyed herself and that she hoped people would “stop being angry.”
I went to the meeting. It was a good time. lots of eager women (and a couple guys) learning cool things about math. we made amends and everything is good. plz stop being angry !!
— rat girl (@stephdriggs) February 22, 2018
Another individual on Twitter emailed the math department and posted it to Twitter. However, another user responded with a screenshot of a Facebook post by Bryn Balls-Barker, the BYU student who made the poster.
In the post, Balls-Barker tried to clear up the confusion, explaining that the four male professors wholeheartedly support women and women in math, and were only trying to help.
She also noted that she specifically asked those professors to speak because they were not “already affiliated directly with the club” and it would be a good chance for club members to interact with other faculty members.
While many understood and later commended the club’s actions to get more women in math, many individuals still found it odd that the club did not reach out to more women faculty members, or other individuals they could have contacted to speak on the panel. Supporters of the club feel that the BYU club organizers should not be demonized for their methods to encourage women to enter STEM programs.
Faculty posted to Facebook that the posters had been removed and replaced with an “appropriate message.”